With the coming-of-age romantic comedy Flipped, director Rob Reiner tells the story of Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) and Juli (Madeline Carroll), as they make the discoveries that will define who they are, as well as who they are to each other. Following them from grade school to junior high, the two characters live through triumph and disaster, family drama and first love, all while Juli waits for Bryce to finally come to his senses and see things her way.
Casting the right actors for the leading roles was very important to the filmmaker, whose casting search reached as far away as Australia, where they found their Bryce in Callan McAuliffe. Now 15 years old, it was the actor’s first American audition and he was thrilled for the opportunity.
During a phone interview with Collider, Callan McAuliffe talked about how badly he wanted to be in an American film, how grateful he was to work with Rob Reiner and how he would love to model his career after Johnny Depp. He also spoke about his next role in the upcoming sci-fi/action film I Am Number 4, directed by D.J. Caruso and produced by Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
What can you say about Flipped and who you play in it?
CALLAN MCAULIFFE: I play Bryce Loski, and he’s another interesting, confused teenager who’s caught up in the struggles of going through puberty. The film is about that. It’s a teenage coming-of-age story about two confused teenagers who are falling in and out of love.
What was it about this film and the character that attracted you to this project and made you want to be a part of it?
MCAULIFFE: I wanted to be in a movie. This was my first American audition. I came over to meet my manager, who had just signed me up, and they were just like, “Oh, we found you this script for your first American audition. You might as well give it a try. You probably won’t get it, but it will be fun anyway.”
And so, I went and did it, and then I did about five or six call-backs for that role. They were really concerned about me being Australian, money wise, because it was difficult. I didn’t have a working VISA, and all that stuff. And then, eventually they called and said, “You got the role,” and I was like, “Wow, that’s really cool!” I was stoked to be in an American film, point blank. But, the fact that it was Rob Reiner directing my first film, I was ecstatic.
At any point, did anyone let you know that it normally doesn’t happen that way and that most people don’t get their first audition?
MCAULIFFE: I’d been through it in Australia. I had auditioned for commercials and a few TV guest roles, and you’re never going to get 100% of what you audition for, but with perseverance and enough auditioning, it will happen eventually.
Were you worried about being able to pull off the accent?
MCAULIFFE: I guess I’d always mocked the American accent. I didn’t consider it a respectable dialect, but I was told that it was, so I was happy with that. So, I wasn’t really worried about the accent, no.
Once you’d been cast, did you read the book to help you understand your character better, or did you just stick with what was in the script?
MCAULIFFE: As soon as I’d been cast, out of respect, I read the book and I thought it was fantastic. I don’t usually read that sort of genre, but it was a beautiful book. And, they really stayed true to the book as well, which I think everyone will like.
How was it to work with Madeline Carroll? Did you guys do anything to get to know each other before filming?
MCAULIFFE: They did a bonding test. In one of the auditions, they brought me in to read with her and, from the start, I thought she was fantastic. She was a really good actress and we got along straight away.
Were you nervous about playing a romantic lead, at your age?
MCAULIFFE: Not really, no. I’m an actor, so you’ve got to expect weird stuff. But, it wasn’t weird at all. It would have been bad, if I’d hated her. That wouldn’t have been fun. It was just a fantastic role to play, and I was really stoked. And, it was my first American film, so anything was fantastic.
What was it like to work with someone the caliber of Rob Reiner? How does that enrich your acting?
MCAULIFFE: He was a fantastic man. He was so jolly and such a nice guy, and he knew what he was doing. If you did something that he didn’t like, he’d stand up and say, “That was terrible.” If it was good, he’d stand up and say, “That was fantastic!” He had a really organized set and he knew exactly what he was doing. It was just a great experience.
What was your reaction when you saw the movie for the first time? Were you happy with how it turned out?
MCAULIFFE: I hate watching myself, as do a lot of actors. I didn’t really want to see it, but when I did see it, it was great. I really enjoyed it.
You’re also currently working on I Am Number 4. Can you talk about what that film is about and who you play in it?
MCAULIFFE: I can’t divulge too much information, but it’s a sci-fi, modern-day alien film. It’s an action movie, so it’s a big difference from Flipped. I have to get a bit of diversity in there.
Even though the book that’s based on isn’t out yet, were you able to read it ahead of time?
MCAULIFFE: I decided not to read that until I’ve finished the film. I was told that they might have changed a few things, so I didn’t want to get out of touch with the character.
Since the book is the first in what they’re hoping will be a number of books and movies, do you know if your character is throughout them? What was it like to sign on for something like that?
MCAULIFFE: I didn’t really think about it, at that point. I’ve seen plenty of those films that go on for ages, like Harry Potter and the Twilight films, but I wasn’t really worried about that at all. I was just excited to have landed another role. That was fantastic. I’m anxious to see what happens.
What’s it been like to film in Pittsburgh?
MCAULIFFE: Pittsburgh is really nice. I really like it. It’s really clean and green. It’s humid at the moment, so the shooting schedule is out of wack. You never know if you’re actually going to do something. You might have a day off, and then you’re suddenly called in while you’re out somewhere else. But, it’s been fun. It’s been really good.
With such a big cast, are there particular actors that you’re working with most often?
MCAULIFFE: Alex Pettyfer, from Stormbreaker, is the person that I’m alongside the most, and he’s such a nice guy. He’s fantastic. There’s so many foreign people on the set, as well. We have Teresa Palmer, who’s another Aussie which is awesome, and we have Alex, who’s English.
Is there anyone you wish you had more scenes with?
MCAULIFFE: One of the people I wish I got to work with more is Kevin Durand. He plays the Mogadorian Commander, so he’s an alien dude. I only have one scene with him, but I’d really like to work with him more ‘cause he’s such a great guy.
How has D.J. Caruso been, as a director? What has the experience of working with him been like, in comparison to Rob Reiner?
MCAULIFFE: They’re actually pretty similar. D.J. Caruso seems to do more action-oriented type of films, but he’s just as good. He’s absolutely fantastic. He’s such a nice guy, and the same with Rob Reiner. He calls in the same people sometimes for each project, so he knows exactly what he wants and what he’s doing. Everyone is really cooperative and kind on the set. If there’s any fights, they won’t happen in front of the actors and in front of everyone. They’ll be off somewhere. So, we don’t experience any of the bad stuff. We just get the fantastic set.
You’re certainly off to quite a start with your American film career, having people like Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay behind I Am Number 4.
MCAULIFFE: I’m pretty happy to have landed a role in Flipped, and in a D.J. Caruso/Steven Spielberg/Michael Bay film, for my first two films. I’m pretty stoked about that.
Have you gotten to meet Spielberg or Bay?
MCAULIFFE: I haven’t met them yet. I really want to, though.
Were you a fan of their work?
MCAULIFFE: I’m a big moviegoer, so I’m fans of a whole bunch of movies. But, I definitely love Transformers. I’m really excited and hope I get to meet them.
Do you enjoy doing physical action work? Are you in a lot of the action in this film?
MCAULIFFE: It’s a really different experience to the love story type of movie, and I think it’s fantastic to have a little bit of contrast. There’s a whole lot of running in this. Sometimes your foot placement is off, so you have to go back and do it again, and you get really tired.
Had you been a fan of the sci-fi genre before doing this?
MCAULIFFE: I really liked the Star Wars films, but can’t say that I’m an avid sci-fi watcher. If a sci-fi movies comes out, I don’t instantly go see it because it’s sci-fi. But, I do enjoy most of the films that I see that are sci-fi. I’m happy with any film.
Do you want to continue to change things up, in your career?
MCAULIFFE: Yeah. I’m happy with absolutely any role that I get, and I’ll do it as best I can and hope that I please someone. I’m happy whichever way it goes.
How did you originally get into acting? Did someone or something inspire you, or did you just always want to be a performer?
MCAULIFFE: In terms of getting into acting, my school is really sports intensive. You commit to a team and you go on the weekend and play against other schools. If you can’t be there, then they’ll drop you, so that you don’t let down the team. So, I dislocated my knee cap during a sports game and couldn’t play anymore, through almost the rest of the year.
I had to find something else to occupy my time and I was like, “Look, I want to make some money, so I can buy my own stuff,” so I decided to join an agency and do a few auditions for commercials and things like that. I ended up going pretty good, and I got a few jobs and was happy with it. Eventually, I got put up for some TV shows.
Then, somehow – and I can’t even fathom how this happened because I hadn’t done anything credible – I was recommended to my current American manager and the first role they put me up for, I got, which was incredible. What a stroke of luck. Acting is all about timing and placement. Skill is a big part of it too, but it’s all about where you are and if you’re there at the right time. I just happened to get that role.
At any point, have you done any training or are you just learning along the way?
MCAULIFFE: I’m not a big fan of training, at all. I really don’t like it. I’ve done a few acting classes and I’ve just hated them. I think they train you to do something, and sometimes you might not be able to break out of it. Acting is lying, and lying is acting. So, I just prefer to read the script and do it my own way.
Do you have any idea where you’d like to see your career go next?
MCAULIFFE: I have no plans, whatsoever. I’m only 15, and so I’m planning to go back to Australia for awhile and complete school. I want to have a turning point, if acting doesn’t work out. But, I’ll just see where it takes me. I enjoy making money and I enjoy the work. I’m really into it and it’s really fun. As long as it goes for, I’m happy to keep going with it. It’s a good ride so far, and I hope the wheels stay on.
Are there any actors that you admire the career of?
MCAULIFFE: Definitely Johnny Depp. I admire his career, all the way, with just the diversity in his roles and all the different things that he plays. He’s such a phenomenal actor. He’s definitely my favorite.